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FROM TODAY'S SHOW
- Capital City Showcase, a previous show's topic, happens this SATURDAY, with Comedian Rob Maher & Musical Headliner YellowTieGuy
- Building The Music Capital Conference happened this past weekend. Incredible experience and great conversation about a music & creative economy in DC. Thanks to Listen Local First and Georgetown for putting it together!
- Debbie Does Dancing - Jackie and The Treehorns (Rock/Alt Rock)
- Favour - French Admirals (Indie/Indie Rock)
- All Over the Map - Dumi Right (Hip Hop/Rap)
- We Were Here - Maryjo Mattea (Rock/Indie Rock)
- Raining Down - Alex The Red Parez (Rock/Acoustic Rock)
- Velocirapture - Alex Vans (Hard Rock/Stoner Rock)
- Intro/Outro music by Fellowcraft (Hard Rock/Blues)
VIDEO - BIO - PHOTOS - TRANSCRIPT
Jason Mendelson is an Alexandria composer and multi-instrumentalist whose MetroSongs project has captured hearts and feet across the D.C. Metro region, infusing the history of each location with a musical flavor all its own. When he's not playing electric 12-string guitar and singing, he can usually be found on various instruments supporting local acts like Selling Fairfax by the Pound, Alex Parez and the Hell Rojos, Jonny Grave and the TombsTones, or Maryjo Mattea and a Pile of Dudes, and has performed on stages all over the area, like the Electric Maid, Black Cat, 9:30 Club, and Kennedy Center Millenium Stage. Jason's studio, An Undisclosed Location, is responsible for involvement in several local projects from bands like The Lucky So & So's, The Iris Bell, the Clara Barton Sessions, Two Dragons & a Cheetah, and more.
Official Website URL: www.metrosongs.org
Facebook URL: www.facebook.com/metrosongs/
Metrosongs Album Series: metrosongs.bandcamp.com
Spotify Link: https://open.spotify.com/artist/3y55krTaLxMDamy5J8UgYi
Brian: Jason is an Alexandria composer and multi-instrumentalist, whose MetroSongs project has captured hearts and feet across the D.C. Metro region, by infusing the history of each location, which metro songs it's the metro stops, each metro station with a musical flavor all of its own. They're different genres; it's incredible.
When he's not playing the electric 12-string guitar and singing, he can usually be found on various instruments supporting local acts like Selling Fairfax by the Pound, Alex Parez and the Hell Rojos, Jonny Grave and the Tombstones, or Maryjo and a Pile of Dudes. He's performed on stages all over the area, like Electric Maid, Black Cat, 9:30 Club, The Kennedy Center Millennium Stage. His studio called An Undisclosed Location and as well as performing there, that location is responsible for involvement in several recording projects from bands like The Lucky So and So's, The Iris Bell, The Clara Barton Sessions, Two Dragons and a Cheetah and more.
Basically this man's musical resume is absolutely incredible because he seems to do everything. You heard him directing the Redskins marching band in a composition that he wrote, as well as performing around town with all different genres of bands. You can hear it on his MetroSongs, all different genres of music for each of the tracks. Basically I've seen this man on stage and I've heard about him and it is such an honor to have him sitting here with me in the studio today. So listen it is with great pleasure that I introduce Jason Mendelson. Please say hi to everybody.
Jason: Hi everybody and thanks for having me here, Brian.
Brian: Thanks so much for being here. So now break us down, I want to hear about you but first I want to hear about those tracks-
Jason: Break you down?
Brian: Did I say break me down? Break it down.
Jason: Drill Sergeant.
Brian: Yeah, yeah, let's not get that serious maybe but let's have some fun. Because Tyson's Corner and Landover - tell me about those tracks we just played.
Jason: Okay. First was Tyson's Corner. That's off of the new forthcoming MetroSongs album. It's going to be Volume 7: Connections.
Brian: So we had a sneak preview.
Jason: Sneak preview. It's not out yet.
Brian: Volume 6 came out, oh boy, I think earlier this week or last week. It's relatively fresh or it's been out a while?
Jason: No, no, no, no. It came out like a year ago but it just got on iTunes.
Brian: Got it. I see.
Jason: Spotify and other computer-y things.
Brian: Got it. Okay so we've got Volume 6 and there's still two more volumes to go?
Jason: Yeah, seven and eight. I'm working on both of them right now.
Brian: And Tyson's Corner... So when you're writing about the metro stops, do you actually go visit the stops or where do the songs come from?
Jason: Well, when I first moved here six years ago, there was a lot of field trips involved.
Brian: (laughs) Really?
Jason: The novelty hadn't worn off; I was still playing tourist. So my wife and I would go to different things around town and we'd take the metro a lot and so it was just natural that we'd end up taking trips that involved passing through all these metro stations. I have to admit I have not been to every single one that I've written about, but I do a lot of online research. I'll usually start with Wikipedia and then find actual credible resources that are linked there. So there's a lot of homework involved.
Brian: The song Tyson's Corner seems to talk about a story. Is that one that you actually had or where do you draw from for that?
Jason: That's a fictional story. I just had the idea of a guy who had maybe been shot down in a marriage proposal and then some time goes by and they happen to reconnect and maybe there's a second chance there.
Brian: Wow, okay. So it's a story and it's set in Tyson's Corner. I'm following you now. Do you develop the song and the composition? How does it come together? Because you've got all these different genres ... I encourage you to listen to his tracks because all of them are different. There's some hip hop, there's some blues, there's some swing. It seems like every genre ... That one was almost reminded me of a high school - no I can't say high school musical - but a musical, like a Broadway musical. The way that it felt it was kind of, when I'm listening to it, that was what it reminded me of. Where do you get the idea for all the compositions?
Jason: Well that one I wanted to do ... So part of the challenge that I've baked in the MetroSongs for myself is to do some of the songs as a pastiche of another artist. So that one I was going for Ben Folds Five.
Brian: Aha, okay.
Jason: And it features a few friends of mine who are part of the ... we're kind of a ... I hate to say band, it's more like a loose conglomerate of vocal musicians here in D.C. who we performed under the name Skin Folds Five.
Brian: Oh man! Awesome, okay.
Jason: That was Derek Evry on backup vocals, Pat Frank on drums and Kevin de Souza on bass and then I played piano and sang lead vocals.
Brian: Well you guys seem to put some incredible things together. And are they featured on various other tracks throughout the albums?
Jason: No just that one. But the theme of this next album is ... It's called Connections and so almost all the songs on this next albums they will be ... they're collaborations with other artists.
Brian: Oh fantastic.
Jason: Like Tyson's with those guys. So yeah all but a few of them ... that's why it's taken so long, I've been working on this album for like a year.
Brian: Got it. Finding time for everybody.
Jason: Coordinating schedules, it’s like herding cats, whatever you want to call it.
Brian: (laughs) We won't tell the other musicians that it's like herding cats but yes probably like that. Yep, I would imagine.
Jason: I think musicians understand that's how it is.
Brian: (laughs) Do we?
Jason: I don't think I'm hurting any feelings there.
Brian: (laughs) Very good. I like it. Now what about Landover then? That was the track that you ... Tell me more. You directed the Redskins marching band? How did that happen? How did that come about?
Jason: Oh okay. So a friend of mine at work plays sousaphone for the Washington Redskins marching band and so for years he and I have talked and mostly things like "Oh, I'd love to write a song for you guys," thinking in the back of my mind like that's awesome but is that going to happen? But it finally did. My friend Micah talked to the director and I guess they were keen to the idea so I got out my very best pencil and wrote a tune for Landover which is pretty close to the FedEx Field there. I think they normally direct people to Morning Boulevard Station but I didn't have a song for that station.
Brian: Right, okay. So they got Landover.
Jason: Yeah so they got Landover. And I just wrote a little tune, just went for that marching band college fight song feel and they were the nicest people. I can't thank them enough for allowing me to come and hang out at rehearsal and for playing my song. And I got to conduct the band which was really exciting, and we recorded it there at FedEx Field and you heard it.
Brian: So let's transition into you now, because so now you're directing a marching band, and yet you also compose and do these other things. What's your background? Have you been a band director before or was that new? How does the music start or where does that story come from with you?
Jason: Okay, well I first started playing on a little toy keyboard that my grandparents got me when I was three or four years old. And then fifth grade I started playing trombone with the school band. I played that all the way through college. But in high school I started playing piano and guitar. There was a piano in the band room so I would get to school early and just fool around on the piano and since I already knew sheet music I had a good basis to start running with. So I knew music. It's not like I was taking lessons. So many people say, "Oh I took piano lessons when I was a kid" and then they never play again. It's because they're forced to play things like Mary Had a Little Lamb and stuff they're just not interested in.
So since I was totally self-directing the learning process I was able to just play the rock and roll that I was actually interested in so that's how I started playing piano and guitar and sadly I don't play much trombone anymore because it's the kind of instrument that you have to play every day or your muscles in your face just go to mush. I don't have that problem with piano and guitar and bass and accordion and mandolin and all that foolishness. So that's kind of what I do now.
Brian: Wow. Okay and it came together. Tell all the musical things you're doing now. You're recording, you're performing ... What are they?
Jason: Yeah, I play with a few different bands in the D.C. area here which is pretty standard for D.C. musicians. I play bass and keyboard for Jonny Grave and I play bass for Alex Parez. I play lead guitar for Maryjo Mattea. And there's other various projects, one-off things I get involved with here and there.
Brian: Got it. Okay. Now what about so now you not the musician, in your personal time are you a hardcore marathon trainer, are you a yoga fanatic?
Brian: Do you play chess? What is outside of music consistent for you, or is there?
Jason: Well I'm pretty busy with music, so my free time is divided between the music we've been talking about and hanging out with my wife. We like to go and do things like nature-y kind of things like parks or nerdy stuff like museums.
Brian: Got it.
Jason: We've been doing a little bit of road trip stuff ... like day trip stuff lately.
Brian: Wow, cool.
Jason: We recently went up to Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania which seems like the most random thing, but it's a cool little town so we had a lot of fun there.
Brian: Wow, all right. Well now what's one thing you love about the D.C. music scene?
Jason: Well it's a great community. Artists really look out for each other and it's just a really friendly kind of thing, which is nice for someone like me who is not doing music for a living. This is my hobby, so I appreciate that. But yeah it's especially great for those musicians here from D.C. who do make a living as artists. I think it would be very discouraging if it were any different.
Brian: Yeah, okay. Tell us a story about your best show. What comes to mind?
Jason: I had a really cool opportunity to host a show at the Millennium Stage at the Kennedy Center.
Jason: Jonny Grave had a project called the Clara Barton Sessions that was involved the Clara Barton Missing Soldiers Office Museum in Chinatown in D.C. There was an acoustic recording that was made there and the musicians got to perform the songs at the Kennedy Center and I was the audio engineer for that so me and the video producer got to be the hosts.
Jason: So that was a lot of fun and I really liked that I didn't have to haul any gear around. Just show up.
Brian: (laughs) Anybody who's done any kind of sound or musicians, oh my goodness, sometimes there ... I'm a drummer ... there is a lot of gear sometimes.
Jason: Yeah. You chose poorly.
Brian: (laughs) When it comes to gear, definitely. But that's why you also get really good at the gear share. How can we share these things so not everybody has to bring everything? Tell a story about the time you tried and failed?
Jason: Well MetroSongs Volume 4. I tried to do a Kickstarter to raise just a few bucks to cover costs of that and it went horribly just because I was spread too thin, I couldn't really focus on it and I think because I play in so many different bands and stuff I don't really devote the time I should to promoting my own stuff. So I can't really say I have a huge drawing yet. But I've got a live group that's great and we've been doing some shows and we've been working on building that up.
Brian: My god, you've certainly got ... in terms of if your resume is the songs you've got, you've got six volumes now, two more coming and the product's amazing. I love the diverse product that you come across with, it's incredible when I see you.
Jason: Thank you
Brian: Now, do you have any rules? Like with the band or as an artist? What kind of rules do you have and are there any you always break?
Jason: Oh, well since I do so much recording there's always little things that I'm trying to remember to do, and then a lot of times I forget them. And a lot of it just involves going through the stuff and making sure it's really 100% perfect. There's one thing as a rule that I've tried to remember to do and I'm horrible, it seems like I never remember is when I'm recording a bass part I always try to remember to use an old Motown trick where they would double the bass with another rhythm guitar. And somehow I always randomly think to myself, oh yeah next song I've got to remember to double the guitar. And I always forget to do it. It's out there, too late.
Brian: (laughs) Old Motown trick; I love it. And the last thing I'd like to ask is so the one piece of advice if you were to offer, what would that be?
Jason: Well for musicians I would say just learn as much stuff as you can and build up your skill set. A lot of musicians start out by just learning the guitar or whatever and then that's all they can do. Just take a little time and learn some other instruments or what's really helpful is learning recording techniques and the gear is so cheap now. I think even any MacBook computer comes with GarageBand or something for free. So the home recording is so much more accessible than it used to be. It's really worth the time to learn some techniques there.
Brian: Wow, very cool. Well thank you for your thoughts and your insights.